Have you ever noticed that some people seem to use their time more wisely than others? It’s almost as if the rest of us have a magnetic attraction to time wasters. I think these distractors seek us out on purpose just to mess with our productivity.
I remember back in elementary school I became fascinated by time management. Can’t think of why. It’s not like I didn’t have plenty of hours in the day back then.
So, I signed up for a study skills club to learn how to use my time more wisely. From the ripe age of 9, I learned how to block schedule, write ideas and notes down when they came to me and even how to clump my activities so they flowed better.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), as I got older, my desire to manage my time perfectly dwindled. So by college, I was at the same place most people were. A master of finding time wasters.
Back then, pre-family, time wasters weren’t that bad. They were a way to relax with friends, take a break from studying and dream about what life would be like when I no longer had to run to class.
Fast forward to today and I have to admit I’d sometimes like a return to my 9 year old self. Maybe she could handle zapping the time wasters more effectively.
Time and how we choose to spend it is one of the most defining things in how we grow our businesses. Every one – even busy moms – have the same 24 hours in a day.
So, why does it seem some people get further along faster than others? I guarantee it’s not because they have more babysitters than we do (although, maybe…).
Many times the rate our business growth depends on how we use are time every day. Choosing our activities carefully let’s us get the best use out of our time and make every minute count.
Identify your Time Wasters
Before you can figure out which time wasters to fix, you need to identify which ones are affecting your life and how often. Time wasters aren’t always bad. But if they become habitual and an every day occurrence, you might want to change how you’re doing things.
Here are some typical time wasters that business moms find throughout their days.
Cooking Complicated Meals
As much as we all want to get a gourmet meal on the family dinner table each night, this isn’t usually possible. For a long time, I turned dinnertime into a gourmet feast. I’d hop on Pinterest, find a complicated recipe and cook.
Last fall, I changed my mindset on family dinner. Our meals needed to be simple, homemade and healthy. Beyond that, my goal was to cook a repertoire of dishes that I already knew how to cook. They needed to have ingredients that were easy to source too.
The amount of time I saved in planning and preparing meals has been business altering. Instead of focusing on cooking, I’m using the extra time to work on business tasks and spend with the kids.
If that’s too basic, try variations on a meal. Some very successful business moms write out the theme of the meal for each day of the week and slip in the ingredients based on what’s available. For example, Tuesday is taco night so they make a variety of tacos based on the food available seasonally.
Also remember that leftovers are great. Once a week, heat up leftovers instead of cooking a new meal. I usually place everything in a smorgasbord style buffet on the kitchen counter. Everyone can just help themselves and dinner is served.
Putting Away Toys
Toy, oh toys, how I love thee. I’m all for a clean house and organized space, but I hate when I’m spending time putting away toys instead of working on my business.
And, let’s be honest, toys get everywhere. They have a way of multiplying.
I have finally put organization systems in place that are helping my kids put their toys away themselves. And one of our new house rules is that if there isn’t a place for it, you have too many toys. We also do a yearly purge – usually around birthdays – to see which toys are still being played with.
Another idea is to only keep out the toys that you kids can actually manage on their own and rotate the rest in. This was always hard to do when we lived in a city condo, so I never got into this routine. But if you have the space, it might help your kids organize the toys themselves.
Errand running used to be an Olympic event until I gave up discretionary spending for a month. Then, I realized how much time running errands wasted. I was just avoiding doing other tasks – typically business tasks – that I really didn’t want to do.
Although sometimes we really do need things, try to schedule running the errands in groups to be more efficient. Save time by making one huge trip instead of three little ones. Even though running the errand itself actually doesn’t take a lot of time, driving is the time waster. By cutting out errands, you’ll be amazed how much more time you have.
If you do need a lot of household goods or other things to keep your family running – diapers and baby food come to mind – consider a monthly delivery service or even just ordering online. Check out these different recurring delivery services for families and you can eliminate running errands as a time waster forever.
Lack of Focus
Finding your focus, especially when you work from home can be hard. I noticed that this school year I would start working at least an half hour after I planned every morning. Instead of working, I found myself cleaning the breakfast dishes and kitchen. I couldn’t seem to focus on my work until my kitchen was sparkly (at least sort of).
So, I had my family work harder in the morning at putting away their own dishes. This way I could shift my focus from the kitchen to my work more easily.
Before you start your work day, review the top two or three things that you hope to focus on that day. Start with the hardest one first. Make sure it’s the only one you’re thinking about when you start working. Getting a difficult task out of the way will improve your focus on the rest of your tasks and increase your productivity.
Not Getting Started
I am guilty of this one. I sit down at my desk during my work time and just stare blankly at the computer screen, not sure what task to tackle first.
Before starting your work day, gather all of the materials you need for your first project or priority. Know which files you’ll use, the task you hope to complete and what steps you plan to get done that day.
When choosing what item on your to do list to work on first, try to tackle your number one priority of the day FIRST. People tend to get tired and unmotivated as their work day goes on. Focus on the thing that has to get done first and then it’s out of the way.
Cell Phone Interruptions
As much as I love my cell phone, I am skeptical that it’s made me more productive over the years. Most of the things on it are time wasters and I find it a huge distraction.
When working, I place my cell phone in a different room. It’s on vibrate so I can hear a phone call, but I turn off all other notifications.
I used to delight in hearing the cha-ching sound when an Etsy sale would come through. That became so distracting, though, that I was focused on listening for the noise instead of actually growing my shop. Once I stopped the app from sending notifications, I spent more time building my Etsy shop. Eliminate distractions and work on the tasks that will help you grow.
I love working from home because my family is around me. But, that also means that I need to manage interruptions with more of an art.
When you’re surrounded by your family as you work, as well meaning as they all are, it’s sometimes hard to get stuff done. These days, I have two work areas. The main one in the studio where the kids do art while I work sometimes. My other one is in quiet corners of our home where I retreat with my laptop when I need some quiet time to think.
Depending on how you work, decide on the best work space for you. Also, create some guidelines to limit distractions.
I noticed when I work from home, that even if my husband is home, my kids will ask me a question instead of him. So, we worked out a rule that if Mommy is having work time, go ask Daddy first. They’ve been surprised how many answers Daddy actually knows.
I know this one might sound odd, but the more you read the more well rounded and knowledgeable a business owner you’ll become. When we’re not reading, we’re usually filling our day with other time wasters when we could be reading. So even if you’re busy, find the time to read.
Poor Work Space Organization
Hopefully your office isn’t looking like my office these days. I have piles of notebooks everywhere and index cards shoved in every corner (most with important thoughts written on them).
The average person wastes 4.3 hours a week shuffling through papers on a messy desk. Think about the possibilities.
So take some time and organize your desk. Figure out how you like to work and put in place organizational systems (especially around the papers) that help you find things more easily.
It used to be widely believed that multi-tasking was good for our productivity. Think about it. Getting two or three things done at once seems better than just one.
Turns out it’s better to do one thing really well than three things just so-so.
Get rid of this time waster by focusing on one task on your to do list at a time. Once that one is complete, move onto the next task. You’ll be amazed how much faster your to do list gets completed.
Forgetting to Say No
Oh, this is another hard one for me. Especially during the school year when I’m bombarded with volunteer requests.
Remember to be careful of the things that you say yes to. Most tasks will take a lot more time than you originally thought.
Before saying yes, make sure an opportunity aligns with your values. For me, these days, my focuses are my family and business. Anything outside of these two things is for a different season in life.
Not Using Apps Properly
There are thousands of apps out there all claiming to make our lives easier. Whether it’s a WordPress plugin or an productivity app for your phone, make sure that you know how the apps work so they are effective.
Not using an app properly can be a huge time waster. Whe nyou download an app, read the instructions so you understand how it works and how it will help your business. Test it out with your business tasks to see if it actually makes a task easier.
If the app seems too complicated, then move onto the next one. Be sure to pick tools that help make your job faster, not more complicated.
Doing Everything Yourself
When you first start a business, the natural inclination is to do everything yourself. Many times this includes taking care of your family’s needs, which is a full time job in itself.
Decide early on which tasks you have the skills to do. If you need to set up a website, but you don’t know anything about HTML, I recommend hiring someone to set up the website for you. This financial investment will take you so much further faster. Don’t let a big project become a time waster. There’s a reason that the world is full of specialists.
Also, consider hiring out some of the household tasks if you think it will give you more time to work. It’s amazing how much more time you could have if you hired someone to clean, help with the yard work or other random tasks around the house. Remember, you don’t need to do it all yourself.
Spending Time on Social Media
As much as social media can help grow our business, when you aren’t careful it can be a huge time waster. Although scrolling through endless posts on your friend’s kids’ newest accomplishment might make having a conversation later on easier, it doesn’t increase sales.
Spend less time on social media. Even your business accounts. I usually schedule my social media posts a week out and check on them once or twice during the week. Otherwise, I stay away from social media distractions.
Less time on social media also leads to a more positive outlook. You’re less likely to compare yourself and your success to others (and their businesses). Many people don’t feel like they measure up or will ever get there. Remember, everyone’s business journey is different. Live yours and yours alone.
Constantly Checking your Stats
And I’m not talking baseball stats. Have you ever not been sure how to spend your child’s afternoon naptime, so you keep refreshing your Etsy stats page hoping for a sale or two? Guilty.
Instead of wasting time constantly wishing people to visit, spend this time marketing your business. Create a new product listing. Write a blog post. Add some social media posts. Just hitting the refresh button isn’t going to change anything.
One of the biggest time wasters I discovered when analyzing how I was spending my time was watching television. I couldn’t believe how many hours were spent in front of my “favorite” shows.
Then, we cut the cable cord. I went from hundreds of cable channels to YouTube and Netflix. And I had more time for family and reading.
If you spend too much time watching TV, make a plan to use the time for more productive activities. You can always keep your cable. Just be more mindful about when you watch it.
I read a great story recently from Lisa Tanner about her experience neglecting her dental care for years because she was growing her freelance writing business and taking care of her family. When she finally got to the dentist, she needed a lot of dental work done. Instead of just the maintenance appointment, which takes about an hour every six months, she ended up with hours of care.
If you are neglecting self care because you think you are stronger or more powerful than doctors, think again. The most successful business women are the ones who take care of themselves.
Schedule those appointments. Eat healthy meals and get to the gym. If you can block off occasional quiet time too, that’s great. But most importantly, don’t neglect your self care. The world needs you at your healthiest.
Not Identifying a Specific Goal
Have you ever felt like you sit down to work on your business every day, but aren’t sure exactly what you’re working towards? It happens. Especially when your goals get murky.
Before starting your work week, make sure you state the specific goals that you’re working towards. Know what steps need to get done that week to get you closer to your goal. You can waste a lot of time when you aren’t specific about what you’re working on and why.
Lack of Motivation
If you feel stuck in your creative work, you might think that you suffer from a creative block. For years, I believed if I could just get past the block, I could finally finish a project or two.
Until recently, when I listened to a podcast by The Minimalists. They discussed the idea that creative blocks don’t actually exist. Instead, it’s more a lack of motivation. That sounds about right.
For me, it’s usually because I’m completed exhausted. Between family and my business, there isn’t much energy to care for myself. I struggle with finding the energy to complete that project and blame it on lack of creativity.
If you suffer a similar lack of motivation, you need to figure out the cause before you can fix it. Once you identify the reasons causing your lack of motivation, you can work towards finding a cure to fix it.
As a work at home mom, you may have said goodbye to a long commute many years ago. But if you’re still going to a daily job outside the home, a commute maybe a time waster for you.
Although there’s probably not much you can do about the commute itself, you could find an inspirational activity to pass the time. I love listening to audio books and podcasts when I’m driving on my own. I usually choose motivational and business books, but will read an occasional fiction book if I find one I like.
There are lots of other ways to make your commute more productive. You can listen to your favorite music, learn a new language and refocus your mind. Check out some other ideas here.
Which Time Wasters Should I give Up?
As you review this list of time wasters, you might find that you do a lot of them or very few. Deciding which ones to give up depends on your priorities. You might love checking your social media every hour even if it wastes ten minutes. It might be important for communicating with your family throughout the day.
For me, cooking healthy meals every day and working from home are my two most important priorities. So, I wasn’t willing to give up every complicated meal (since I love cooking) or move my desk where I might be less distracted (because I prefer working amongst my family even if their distractions are time wasters).
Figure out which time wasters bother you the most and focus on changing those first. Everyone’s productivity solution will be different.
Denise Duffield Thomas, the mastermind behind Chillpreneur, gave up cleaning, cooking and errand running even when her business was in the infancy stage. Instead of handling all of the little time wasters that popped up through her day, she focused all of her energy on managing her business. Since then, her business has grown into million dollar revenue maker. So maybe there’s something to getting rid of more time wasters than less.
Wasting time. We all do it whether we like it or not. Although a time waster here and there isn’t a big deal, time wasters add up over time.
After you identify your big time wasters, decide whether or not you want to fix them. Some time wasters might be part of your current season and you decide to live with them instead of eliminate.
If you decide to fix them, ask yourself why you are doing it and if you can just stop altogether. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Quitting your constant social media checks cold might be hard to do. If so, try to partially eliminate the habit. You could stop checking social media when you are in traffic, eating a meal and spending time with your family.
If eliminating the item isn’t possible, try to find a way to automate it. Hire someone to do the task, buy an app that gets it done and find other ways to stop wasting time on the activity.
Some times it’s impossible to drop a time waster altogether or find someone to take over. In these cases, it’s probably not a time waster after all. Instead of completing the task at your highest energy level, work on it when your energy level is lower. I find a lot of time wasters are good to do when we’re transitioning from one location to another or I have down time between tasks.
Although reducing your wasteful activities isn’t always easy, it’s definitely worth it in the end. Spend time eliminating time wasters and you’ll be amazed how many more minutes you get back in your day.